Revealing Raucous Restaurants

Sunday, April 6, 2008; 12:00 AM

You sounded off. We listened.

Starting April 20, restaurant reviews in the Magazine will feature noise ratings along with the other information -- hours, prices, Web sites, etc. -- already included with the weekly dining column.

The ratings will be determined using a combination of a sound-level meter reading and the reviewer's personal reaction to the acoustics over multiple visits. Here's the breakdown:

Quiet (under 60 decibels)

Conversation is easy (60-70 decibels)

Must speak with raised voice (71-80 decibels)

Extremely loud (over 80 decibels)

For the sake of comparison, 50 decibels is equivalent to the sound of a moderate rain shower; 60 decibels represents normal conversation; 70 decibels is akin to the noise made by a vacuum cleaner; and noise levels higher than 80 decibels (conjure up city traffic) are potentially hazardous if listened to for a sustained period.

The brain registers every 10-decibel increase as a doubling of loudness. Thus, a restaurant that measures 80 decibels sounds twice as noisy as a place that measures 70 decibels.

-- Tom Sietsema

© 2008 The Washington Post Company